Chapter One: 1986
And now I just sit in silence / I ponder of something terrifying / 'Cause this time there's no sound to hide behind / I find over the course of our human existence / One thing consists of consistence / And it's that we're all battling fear… – Twenty One Pilots, "Car Radio"
This was the strangest day of Jonathan Long's eighteen-year-old life.
You realize this now? You just found out that your girlfriend is a dragon and your teenage son came to visit you from the future, yet you only realize how f**king weird your life is now, when the people who want her dead kidnap and blackmail you into giving information about her? He couldn't help but be amazed at his own thought process.
His kidnapper glowered at him from next to the switch that could lower an incredibly terrifying spinning blade.
"I'll give you one more chance," said the dude in a high, squeaky voice that would have been comical if his comrades didn't have helmets made from dragon skulls. "Where are they?! WHERE ARE THE DRAGONS?"
That was the whole issue here. After Jonathan had discovered that fateful note from Susan in his locker – the one explaining her family's true reptilian heritage, complete with holograms of her dad shape-shifting into a giant blue lizard creature and her talking, spell-casting, gambling-addict dog – he'd freaked. Who wouldn't? His entire world had just received a punch to the face, like yeah, just so you know, there's a whole magical underworld in New York City that includes creatures who could claw your face off while they burn you to a crisp, and some of those creatures might just be your future in-laws! Surprise!
But that didn't excuse the way he'd treated his amazing girlfriend over the secret she'd trusted him with. He cringed at the memory of the temper tantrum he'd thrown, screaming at Susan, breaking her heart, calling her a monster, and generally making an a** of himself. She'd looked so shattered. When he realized his mistake while walking home (he'd had to pull over so he wouldn't cause an accident), he'd been furious with himself and desperate to get her back and show her he could be trusted. He probably wasn't the first human to screw around with Susan's feelings, though, so fat chance of that happening.
His girlfriend's trust issues aside, Jonathan wasn't too great at this romance thing and so he'd decided to call a teen advice helpline. The phone operator had hung up on him the minute he said the word dragon, of course…but apparently, she wasn't the only one listening to their conversation. The Huntsclan – the cult of dragon slayers (excuse me, covert police organization) who held him captive now, who apparently wanted to kill all dragons, including dragons like Susan who couldn't shape-shift and just looked human all the time – had been tapping the phone line, traced the call back to Jonathan's address (how did they do that?), drugged, and kidnapped Jonathan.
So now Jonathan was here, tied to a chair with a large spinning blade over his head while a group of dragon slayers tried to force him to give them the ammo needed to…he couldn't finish that mental sentence. The thought of what could happen to Susan at the hands of these people, not to mention Jake and that girl, Jonathan and Susan's future daughter, whose picture had been in her brother's wallet…
Suddenly tears stung Jonathan's eyes and he couldn't breathe past the lump in his throat. His last conversation with Susan flashed through his mind and he wanted so badly to take her in his arms and tell her how sorry he was. If the Huntsclan had their way, the next time Jonathan saw Susan would be at her funeral…if there was even a body left to bury. He remembered Jake's face – his son's face – hoping so badly that his dad would do the right thing but starting to lose faith in Jonathan as quickly as Susan had, and he knew at once that Jake had seen Jonathan scream at her. He flinched guiltily. He remembered the adorable little girl, the daughter he'd never get to meet and whose name he would never even know.
Jonathan didn't know what would happen to his kids. He'd never wanted to hurt them, and they sure as hell deserved better than a dad who they had a damn good reason not to trust. Heck, he didn't even know what would happen to Susan after today…but she wasn't going to die. God help him, Susan would live. She'd become a woman, eventually get married, and have kids of her own…even if they could never be his.
But only if he died in her place.
That was why there wasn't even a doubt in his mind when he screamed at his abductors and his girlfriend's would-be murderers, "I WILL TELL YOU NOTHING!"
And the blade whirred as it came downward. Jonathan closed his eyes and waited to die...and then a blast of fire shot out at the blade, severing it from its fixture on the ceiling of this weird torture center, and a flash of red and gold scales shot overhead on surprisingly powerful wings. Jonathan's eyes widened as he recognized Jake's dark eyes and felt a little chagrined when he remembered the first time he'd ever seen his son in dragon form…had it really been only hours before? He'd screamed and cowered. What a great first impression to make with his kid.
Now, though, he didn't feel any fear. Well, he did – just not toward Jake.
"J-" Jonathan called out to warn Jake's about the laser aimed at Jake's wings, ready to knock him out of the air.
The fourteen-year-old shot him a We're surrounded by dragon slayers; do you really think telling them my name is a smart idea? look and deftly dodged the beam as he caught the now-permanently stopped blade and set it down.
Jonathan decided it would be smart to shut up and let Jake do his thing, no matter how strong that weird dad instinct was to throw himself between the slayers and his son and let those b***ards know exactly what he planned to do to anyone who messed with his child. Even if that child hadn't technically been born yet.
But those b***ards were armed…with lasers. Also, the 'child' he wanted so desperately to protect was currently only four years younger than him (time travel was so weird), a good ten times stronger, possessed clawed hands, and could hock loogies made of fire. Therefore, his paternal instincts could wait.
While the slayers were distracted, Susan slipped behind the chair that still strapped Jonathan in place, quickly freed him, and whispered, "Go. Get to somewhere safe."
He shook his head adamantly, saying a little too loudly, "I'm not leaving you."
A stray slayer overheard him and charged toward the young couple. Susan spun on the man, snarled, and did a roundhouse kick to knock his incredibly morbid helmet off. She kicked him again, so his eye made contact with the steel toe of her boot. He yelped and she grabbed his arm, twisted it behind his back, and shoved him up against the nearest wall as hard as she could. Jonathan could only gape at her, awed and a little bit turned on. Susan didn't even have dragon powers, but she'd just managed to beat up a guy twice her size while he could only stand there helplessly and incompetently.
"Daddy's protective," she explained when she caught him staring. "He's been teaching me how to fight since I was a little girl."
Daddy's protective? Oh, he'd noticed. Even Susan's dog, Fu – who could talk, apparently – had always growled at Jonathan when he came to pick her up for a date. Magical beings seemed to be pretty protective when it came to their families.
He noticed now, too, as 'Daddy', in dragon form, fearlessly fought off a small army of slayers…to save Jonathan's life. Jonathan couldn't help but be a little embarrassed at that. He'd just treated the old man's daughter like crap, yet Mr. Luong was still willing to protect Jonathan.
"Mr…." Jonathan stopped in his tracks, remembering Jake's reaction when Jonathan almost gave the Huntsclan Jake's name.
"It's alright, Jonathan," Lao Shi told him. "The Huntsclan already knows who I am."
"Why are you doing this?" Jonathan couldn't help but ask.
"I couldn't let you die." The blue dragon's voice took a threatening tone, verging on a growl, as he picked up Jonathan (surprisingly gently) and carried him to safety. "But be grateful, for your own sake, that my daughter's safety…not to mention my grandchildren's…is riding on yours." Mr. Luong carefully set Jonathan down on the sand, out of view of any humans.
Jonathan nodded. He understood. Susan and her family…all dragons…were battling fear just as much as he was. They all were. But they'd all come together tonight and overcome old grudges and old anger to save one another's lives.
"And Jonathan? Your daughter's name is Haley."
With that, the dragon turned and flew away…and Jonathan promptly passed out.